COVID-19: The Road to Recovery
Phase 3 & 4 Resuscitation and Surge: Start Me Up!
July 14, 2020
By Pasha Arshadi
What many thought would be months away has finally become a reality. We have entered the Resuscitation (Phase 3) of our journey through this pandemic. Coinciding with the typical spring bloom in May, the Resuscitation initially began with a couple of critical states leading the charge to move out of the Makeshift (Phase 2). Businesses and infrastructure deemed non-essential started reopening in hopes of revitalizing local economies in an attempt to return to the pre-pandemic "normal." As the contagion curve began to decline and flatten nationwide — the country, in turn, was anxious to reopen with new safeguards in place. In the healthcare industry, the Resuscitation phase greenlighted the ability to begin rescheduling patients seeking elective or "non-essential" procedures that were previously restricted. Clinics, Healthcare Providers, and Medical Device Manufacturers alike had to consider many new factors that would ultimately affect their businesses, such as:
Extended Hours due to Spaced out Schedules and demand backlog
PPE Policies and Enforcement
Doctor/Device Manufacturer Collaborations
As we move forward, one thing is clear — antiquated pre-COVID practices will cease to exist. As we enter the Surge (Phase 4), Darwin's theory, "survival of the fittest" is in full effect. Those adapting to their environment will thrive and succeed while those who don’t will wither and fade away.
In mid-May thru June of 2020, we moved into the Surge and saw a sharp increase in elective procedures as hospitals and clinics began accepting non-critical appointments. The Surge has resulted in other logistical challenges, such as limited access to doctors, clinics and hospitals — not to mention concern among personnel about coronavirus exposure. As we progress down this road, the industry will continue to be faced with unanticipated challenges as many have never experienced such an ordeal in their lifetimes, especially since coronavirus case counts continue to rise.
One thing is certain; the pandemic has forced healthcare providers, patients and medical device manufacturers alike to accept new ways of interacting. 'Business as usual' will never be the same. New and creative methodologies will need to be implemented for the next iteration of Healthcare services. Reducing the risk of employee exposure has put immense pressure on medical device manufacturers to implement practices that allow for "touchless" interactions with healthcare providers and doctors alike. Medical device manufacturers need to approach customers differently and will need to upskill their sales team to accommodate a virtual world. With rising coronavirus case counts and continued limited access to hospitals, exploring new and creative ways to reinvent these interactions will be a necessity in the new world we live in.
Limited access to hospitals means less support as well as the inability to troubleshoot and provide high-quality customer service. Peer-to-peer training from experts becomes impossible and many medical device manufacturers rely on these proctorships to ensure the "stickiness" of a product.
The two major trends we've seen
Hospitals are learning to adapt to COVID-19 and build strategies to support patients during a surge
In dealing with demand surges common approaches implemented include surgical preplanning and extending hours of operation. Since hospitalizations have increased in recent weeks, hospitals are implementing surge strategies to maximize patient throughput and utilization of operating rooms. They fear this pandemic is far from over and question whether they should shut down elective surgeries every time there's an infection spike. Until a vaccine is available, hospitals are tasked with figuring out how to care for an increasing number of COVID-19 inpatients while still tending to non-COVID patients.
COVID-19 created a surgery backlog that's only going to get worse
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown have created a large backlog of elective procedures. Some patients were scheduled to have procedures during the shutdown, while others were not able to have procedures done due to limited capability while health care systems are ramping up. If hospitals are not able to operate at 100% capacity, they will continue to add to the backlog and waiting lists. These facilities will look to outpatient centers as ‘spill over’ sites that may have more malleability for getting patients in and out quicker than a conventional hospital.
In the U.S., roughly 60 percent of the population lives with at least one chronic illness or condition such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. For many patients with these pre-existing conditions, the fear of contracting coronavirus has prevented them from seeking preventative or regularly scheduled care. This aversion to visiting hospitals and clinics has led to a decrease in claims related to these chronic conditions. Healthcare leaders and physicians are unsure of the negative impact this could have on patient outcomes. These patients may face higher complication rates and possibly higher mortality rates by postponing essential care.
Challenge for Medical Device Manufacturers
As backlogged procedures continue to occur, medical device utilization is expected to operate at full capacity. This increased device usage (especially after a period of downtime) could result in operational fatigue, requiring additional servicing intervals and preventive maintenance to be implemented in order to ensure reliability and proper calibration. Some medical facilities may need to schedule these service appointments outside of standard business hours due to the increased demand and full calendars.
Beyond servicing existing hardware, new equipment installations and upgrades are likely to be scheduled during these busy summer months in preparation for a 'second wave' of coronavirus infections in the colder months coinciding with flu season. Clinical training on new systems will also be challenging during this time but necessary to ensure end-user proficiency on new equipment and features.
With restrictions being lifted, combined with pent up demand of deferred procedures — it’s going to be a busy time for medical device manufacturers and their customers over the coming months. Through careful planning and scheduling, and exploring innovative partnering collaborations with flexible services provider, these next few months can be a lucrative (albeit busy) time for those prepared if executed properly.
Profits aside, it's important to remember how an organization's brand is perceived during this pandemic. If a device is down, causing delay to a patient's procedure, it will not be favorable for that medical device manufacturer's reputation. Mitigating any downtime should be the main priority for manufacturers and medical facilities during this busy time.
As we have entered the summer months, we continue to see contagion spikes beginning to pop up in various states throughout the country. While we expect local and state governments to step in and start to lock down aspects of our social lives to minimize spread, we do not foresee a slowdown in the healthcare industry which continues to be heavily impacted. The case has been made that many of the elective procedures should not be deemed elective as they are critical to the quality of life of many patients, even more so than contracting coronavirus. Given this, there is a high probability we will continue to see the Surge continue within the healthcare industry over the summer, as many patients needing AFIB, cataract, knee replacements, and similar procedures will want to complete surgeries before the anticipated second wave.
As we continue our journey down this road together, we can certainly expect unpredictable twists and turns to present themselves. Our 7 Phases have us hitting a Reemergence (Phase 5) in late Fall of this year, but with localized spikes associated with the first wave continuing to occur all over, we might not see the second wave till closer to the end of the year. We will be on the lookout for any other patterns or events that may change our outlook, but for now we are staying the course and feel the renewed mandates will flatten the curve once more.
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